Seattle mayor to sign downtown empty storefront legislation into law

Aug 17, 2021, 5:03 AM | Updated: 5:39 am
downtown Seattle...
File photo of downtown Seattle in 2020. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott)
(KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says she will sign legislation that allows more flexibility in permitted uses for empty downtown storefronts into law.

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The legislation passed Seattle City Council unanimously, providing flexibility for businesses, artists, and other organizations to activate empty storefronts by allowing art installations, museums, and a variety of businesses, among other new options like food processing, horticultural operations, and crafts manufacturing.

In the past, businesses downtown on certain streets had to abide by a narrower set of permitted pedestrian-friendly uses for storefronts.

“Downtown is Seattle’s economic engine and heartbeat, and it’s up to us to help it build back better than ever for all those who live, work, or visit. As part of our effort to revitalize downtown, we’re making it easier than ever to pursue new, innovative uses for storefronts, like art installations or museums,” Durkan said in a written release. “This temporary change to allow more uses for our storefronts will help restore the vitality of our downtown. I appreciate the City Council for quickly passing this legislation and supporting the City’s work to help downtown small businesses, workers, and arts and cultural organizations recover.”

For the next 12 months, the city will allow permit applications for new businesses. Businesses that received a permit and invested in a new storefront under this temporary law could remain indefinitely, but would not be able to expand their footprint.

The goal is to help bring businesses and artists back downtown as the city continues to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic and related closures.

‘People are coming back,’ but downtown Seattle needs leadership

The flexibility will be available on the main shopping streets in the commercial core, Belltown, Pioneer Square, and parts of South Lake Union. Businesses in the Chinatown-International District already have this kind of permitting flexibility.

The new rules go into effect in September. Learn more about the permitting process online here.

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Seattle mayor to sign downtown empty storefront legislation into law